Duke protects No. 1 ranking
DURHAM, N.C., Jan. 9 (UPI) -- In one of the most significant college basketball game played to date this season, the Duke Blue Devils proved they are No. 1.
Dahntay Jones collected 22 points and 11 rebounds Wednesday night as top-ranked Duke shook off a sluggish first half for a 93-86 victory over the Georgetown Hoyas in the first matchup between the schools in a dozen years.
Duke (10-0) remained one of two unbeaten teams in Division I along with No. 18 Wake Forest. The Blue Devils host the Demon Deacons Sunday night.
Georgetown (8-2) took a 44-41 lead on a halftime buzzer-beater by Tony Bethel and Gerald Riley's jumper made it 48-43 early in the second half. Duke freshman J.J. Redick made a jumper, Casey Sanders made a foul shot and Chris Duhon's basket tied it.
A free throw by Mike Sweetney gave the Hoyas a 49-48 lead, but Sweetney was forced to the bench seconds later with his fourth foul. The Blue Devils took advantage with 10 straight points, triggered by a three-pointer from Duhon.
None of the top 25 teams in action Wednesday night was beaten, but No. 19 Kentucky survived a tough battle by downing Tennessee, 74-71.
Dallas improves to 12-3 on the road
ATLANTA, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Dirk Nowitzki and Raef LaFrentz both had big games Wednesday to send Dallas rolling past Atlanta, 117-99.
Atlanta suffered its season-high sixth straight loss.
Playing their worst basketball of the season, the Hawks fell behind by 16 points in the first quarter and rallied back to tie it at halftime before being overwhelmed by the league's best team after intermission.
Nowitzki and LaFrentz led the way, combining for 56 points and 24 rebounds. Nowitzki had 30 points and 14 rebounds en route to his 18th double-double and LaFrentz had a season-high 26 and 10.
Steve Nash added 19 points for the Mavericks (29-5), who also improved to an NBA-best 12-3 on the road.
Other NBA results: Indiana 89, New York 87; Houston 91, Orlando 81; Detroit 103, Philadelphia 94 in overtime; Washington 101, Chicago 98; Minnesota 102, Golden State 95; Denver 86, Miami 76; Utah 99, Phoenix 93; Boston 93, New Orleans 83
Hull carries Red Wings past Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla., Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Brett Hull scored twice Wednesday night, including his second consecutive overtime winner, as Detroit defeated Florida, 2-1.
Just 26 seconds after Florida's Viktor Kozlov hit the crossbar on a breakaway, Hull got his second goal of the game.
Defenseman Jason Woolley passed to the left faceoff circle, from where Hull unleashed a patented one-timer that hit goaltender Roberto Luongo's right pad and went into the net 68 seconds into the extra period.
Pavel Datsyuk, who missed 18 games with a strained knee, set up both goals for the Red Wings, who were coming off Tuesday's 1-0 loss in Tampa Bay but improved to 5-1-3 in their last nine road contests.
After a scoreless first period, Hull ended Detroit's scoring drought at 83 minutes, 14 seconds with his 16th goal. He also netted the game-winner in Sunday's 4-3 overtime triumph at Chicago.
Marcus Nilson tied it for the Panthers just 51 seconds into the third period with his third goal in four games.
But neither team was able to score over the rest of regulation and Florida headed to overtime for the 20th time this season.
Other NHL results: New York Rangers 5, Carolina 1; Columbus 2, Minnesota 1; Phoenix 0, Chicago 0.
PGA Tour season opens Thursday
KAPALUA, Hawaii, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The 2003 PGA Tour opens Thursday with the Mercedes Championships, an event that will be missing the sport's two best players.
World No. 1 Tiger Woods is out until mid-February following knee surgery and second-ranked Phil Mickelson is on a ski trip with his growing family. That leaves South African star Ernie Els as the top-ranked player in the lineup.
It it still a quality 36-man field, featuring only tournament winners from the 2002 season. Five of the top 10 players in the world are at The Plantation Course this week, including defending champion Sergio Garcia of Spain.
"It would be wide-open even if they were here," said Jerry Kelly, who won his first two PGA Tour titles last year. "Having them here would just make winning that much sweeter, but no matter what, it's a good win."
Regardless of who is here, the rewards are high. With a record $235 million available this season, this week's winner will go home with $1 million and a new car.
Garcia defeated David Toms in a playoff here last year and begins the season ranked sixth in the world. It was the only title of 2002 for the three-time PGA Tour winner, who turns 23 Thursday.
For Garcia, the absence of Woods and Mickelson will not make things any easier.
"You don't really focus on that," Garcia said. "You just focus on playing well yourself, not what the other guys are doing."
Ernie Els, who is third in the world, is coming off a season in which he won a pair of titles, including the British Open for his third career major victory. He finished third here in 2001, a year after losing a playoff to Woods.
Countryman Retief Goosen is back after proving 2001 was no fluke. After winning a dramatic U.S. Open two years ago, the world No. 4 captured his second PGA Tour title in 2002 and had a pair of runner-up finishes -- one to Woods at The Masters.
Also in the field is Vijay Singh of Fiji, who won the last event of the 2002 season -- the Tour Championship. He claimed a pair of titles last year to lift his career total to 11.
Tice re-organizes staff
MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice re-organized his coaching staff Wednesday.
Tice, who received a vote of confidence from owner Red McCombs near the end of the season, promoted George O'Leary from assistant head coach and defensive line coach to defensive coordinator. O'Leary replaced Willie Shaw, who served as Tice's defensive coordinator in 2002.
Under Shaw, the Vikings were 26th in the NFL in total defense and only the Cincinnati Bengals (456) and Detroit Lions (451) allowed more points than Minnesota (442).
O'Leary coached at Georgia Tech before being forced to resign days after taking the Notre Dame job in December 2001. O'Leary joined Tice's staff soon after the incident at Notre Dame.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will assume the duties of quarterbacks coach while Pete Bercich will handle O'Leary's former duties as defensive line chores.
Minnesota went 6-10 in 2002 and Tice is 6-11 as the Vikings' coach.
Lions fire assistants Larry Kirksey, Glenn Pires
ALLEN PARK Mich. Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Matt Millen and Marty Mornhinweg were given a reprieve, but a pair of assistants paid the price for the Detroit Lions' 3-13 season.
The Lions Wednesday fired wide receivers coach Larry Kirksey and linebackers coach Glenn Pires, both of whom spent two years on the job.
Detroit closed the season with eight straight losses and their winning percentage of .156 over the last two seasons is the worst for such a span in franchise history. There was speculation that Millen would be fired as president and that Mornhinweg would be let go as coach, but owner William Clay Ford decided on New Year's Eve to bring the pair back for another season.
Kirksey spent one season as wide receivers coach at Texas A&M and six seasons in the same role with the San Francisco 49ers before being hired by the Lions.
Pires was linebackers coach of the Arizona Cardinals for five seasons before landing with the Lions prior to the 2001 season.
Blackhawks trade Mironov to Rangers
CHICAGO, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- The Chicago Blackhawks have found a taker for disgruntled defenseman Boris Mironov.
They sent Mironov to the New York Rangers Wednesday for a fourth-round pick in the 2004 draft.
Mironov was suspended indefinitely by the Blackhawks on Dec. 5 after leaving the team. He returned on Dec. 31 to begin a conditioning stint, but has not played since a 3-2 loss at Anaheim on Dec.
The 30-year-old Mironov has three goals, an assist and 22 penalty minutes in 20 games this season. He was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in a seven-player trade in March 1999.
Roddick ousted in Sydney
SYDNEY, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Andy Roddick's preparation for the Australian Open was cut short Wednesday.
The sixth-seeded American lost for the first time in six career meetings with Korean qualifier Hyung-Taik Lee, falling 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 in a second-round matchup at the adidas International hardcourt event.
Roddick reached the semifinals here last year, but was eliminated in the second round of the Australian Open. A winner of five ATP titles, Roddick is the ninth seed at this year's Australian Open, which begins Monday.
Lee avenged his quarterfinals loss to Roddick at last year's event. The 27-year-old Seoul native's best results in 2002 came here and at the Queen's Club in London, where he also advanced to the final eight.
Safin, who lost in the finals of last year's Australian Open, rallied past Jarko Nieminen of Finland, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, and next faces Lee.
Ferrero posted a 6-3, 6-2 victory in his first career meeting with Russia's Mikhail Youzhny.
Moya, who lost to Ferrero in the semifinals of the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, was defeated by American qualifier Mardy Fish, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-4.
Hewitt, Serena top seeds in Australia
MELBOURNE, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Lleyton Hewitt of Australia and Serena Williams of the United States were named the No. 1 seeds Wednesday for the Australian Open.
Hewitt earned the top seed at the year's first Grand Slam tournament by finishing as the world No. 1 for the second straight season. The Adelaide native is the reigning Wimbledon and Tennis Masters Cup champion.
Williams captured the final three Grand Slam events last year. She will be gunning for her first Australian Open title and claim what she has dubbed the "Serena Slam."
Three-time Australian Open champion Andre Agassi of the United States is the second seed in the men's draw. Russian Marat Safin and Spaniards Juan Carlos Ferrero and Carlos Moya round out the top five.
On the women's side, Venus Williams - Serena's older sister - is the second seed and is followed by fellow American Jennifer Capriati. Belgians Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne are fourth and fifth.
Hewitt will attempt to make up for last year's disappointment at Melbourne Park, when he battled chicken pox and suffered a first-round exit at the hands of Alberto Martin of Spain.
There are only two other seeded Americans with Andy Roddick at No. 9 and James Blake at No. 23. Blake already has defeated Hewitt en route to capturing the Hopman Cup with teammate Serena Williams in Perth.
Changes planned for grand slam events
LONDON, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- International Tennis Federation president Francesco Ricci-Bitti Wednesday unveiled plans to move the Australian Open to March.
In Wednesday's edition of the German newspaper Die Welt, Ricci-Bitti also suggested Wimbledon may be rescheduled from its traditional slot in June and July.
Players have complained frequently that the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam event of the season which starts on Monday, comes too soon after the winter hiatus and leaves them with too little time to properly prepare for such an important event.
"Melbourne comes right at the start of the season. It's a highlight that comes too soon," Ricci-Bitti told the newspaper. "That's why we are in talks with the ATP to move Indian Wells and Key Biscayne to February and the indoor tournaments in Europe could start the season in January."
Three-time Australian Open champion Andre Agassi said he thinks the Melbourne event should be contested three weeks later.
"I think there are a lot of surprise results here because of the fact that it's just right out of the blocks," Agassi said.
Ricci-Bitti also said that if a decision is made to move Wimbledon, it will not be executed before 2005.